New research shows that there may be an important link between childhood trauma and the development and response to treatment of multiple sclerosis, or MS. MS is an autoimmune disorder that occurs when the body attacks its own healthy cells and tissues, specifically in the nervous system.
Child Neurology Consultants’ board-certified pediatric neurologist Dr. Jeffery Kane shared insight into this new research conducted by the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign for a recent article in VeryWell Health.
“What’s new here is the idea that stress from childhood could affect your predisposition to autoimmune diseases years and even decades later in life,” says Dr. Kane.
The study was performed on two sets of mice who were given saline injections, one group allowed to stay with their mothers, and the other was separated–thus creating stress/trauma. The mice who experienced the trauma were more likely to develop EAE (experimental autoimmune encephalomyelitis) which mimics key components of MS, including inflammation. The development of EAE in the mice also triggered a release of the stress hormone norepinephrine.
While this new study supports evidence already established that stress can exacerbate certain conditions, especially those of an autoimmune or inflammatory nature, Dr. Kane cautions against believing that any or all traumas will elicit this outcome.
“Having a bad experience in kindergarten or first grade, that’s probably not enough to increase their risk [for MS],” he says. “We need to protect our kids, of course, but we don’t want to go too far the other way and never let them experience life.”
This research is important because it may give a glimpse on how the trauma and stresses of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic may affect kids’ and teens’ physical and mental health. Reported cases of depression, largely due to social isolation, have increased greatly over the past year–and so pediatric experts will be watching how those with already existing medical conditions persevere.
For any child who is currently living with MS, or suffering from a similar autoimmune disorder, they may be prone to depression already. It is more important now than ever to watch for mental health issues. Suggestions for helping keep their emotional well-being in check include:
- Eating well-balanced meals
- Exercising on a regular basis
- Getting enough sleep
- Talking often with a parent, trusted friend, teacher, or mentor about how they are feeling
- Staying in constant communication with their regular physician and taking medications, or following prescribed treatments, as directed
Child Neurology Consultants of Austin has experience treating multiple sclerosis and a wide range of neurological disorders in children and teenagers from 0 to 21 years old. For an appointment with one of our specialists, or to learn more about our services, please contact us here.